Supporting Portland's Vegan, Vegetarian, and Veg-curious Community

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Northwest VEG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Portland, OR that works to educate and encourage people to make vegan choices for a healthy, sustainable, and compassionate world.
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Vegan Summer Camp Trains Youth Activists

April 1, 2011

By Nora Kramer, Executive Director of YEA Camp

I am thrilled to be able to introduce Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp to Northwest VEG members who may not be familiar with it. YEA is a residential week-long vegan summer camp for youth 12-17 who want to make a difference in the world. YEA Camp began in 2009 in California and expanded to Oregon, in Molalla, in 2010, and our second summer in Oregon is just around the corner, this year at a larger venue in Corbett, at a beautiful spot in the Gorge.

YEA's mission is to provide youth with an educational experience that empowers them with the knowledge, skills, confidence and community for a lifetime of bold leadership for social change. Our camp is first and foremost about activism and supporting young people in making a difference on progressive social issues. In line with these values, all of YEA's food is vegan. We have an interesting combination of campers who find out about and attend YEA because it is vegan, and those who are attracted to the activist purpose of the camp and may be apprehensive about eating vegan food for a week. The honor code all campers and staff agree to helps to create a non-judgmental and accepting environment where people are willing to try new things, and our food is an almost universal hit. Our first day at camp, we watch The Meatrix and do a whole workshop on why the food we'll be eating may be different than what some kids are used to at home. We serve traditional kid- and camp-friendly foods like pancakes and French toast for breakfast, sandwiches and burritos for lunch, pasta, sushi, and stir-fries for dinner, and ice cream, cookies, and brownies - all vegan - for dessert. We even have vegan marshmallows for roasting!

We are grateful that many vegan food manufacturers have generously donated their products, making it possible for us to affordably provide top-quality food, including Sweet and Sara, Food Fight, Turtle Mountain/So Delicious, Amy's Kitchen, Tofurky/Turtle Island, Field Roast, Tofutti, Whole Soy and others.

Several campers have gone vegetarian or vegan since camp ended, and several more have become active in promoting a more compassionate diet.

While the vegan food we serve is a memorable, unique, fundamental, and delicious aspect of our camp, YEA's primary purpose is to support youth in becoming active for their cause. At our inaugural 2010 Oregon camp, we had 19 campers from all over Oregon and Washington who chose to focus on issues such as climate change, immigration, homophobia, and peace, though the most popular issue chosen was animal rights and vegetarianism.

Our campers have done amazing things in just the few months since camp ended. Some have started clubs at their school, attended community hearings about a coal power plant, volunteer as a photographer for the local Humane Society, and, most recently, Ananda Fitcher, a 7th grader at Sunnyside Environmental School, was the primary organizer of a benefit concert for the YEA Camp scholarship program!

We are so excited for our camps in 2011, our biggest year yet. We have several returning staff and campers who will bring continuity to our program, and many new faces that will help it grow.

YEA has a range of campers who have already been very active in their issue, as well as those who haven't done much and might not have chosen one issue to focus on. We create a nurturing and empowering space where everyone leaves camp proud of what they care about and ready to take action on some level for something truly important to them. And all campers come away having had a week of delicious vegan food and recognizing the power of their forks to make a difference.

We are so grateful to Northwest VEG not only for all of its great work in promoting humane and sustainable food choices, but for its support of YEA Camp. NW VEG was one of our first donors in Oregon, and has consistently contributed to our fundraising and outreach efforts. Special thanks go to NW VEG Board member Cindy Koczy, one of our phenomenal cooks last year and a beloved member of our team both by campers and staff. YEA Camp is working alongside with NW VEG to bring about a more peaceful world for people, animals, and the planet.

We have spots available for this summer and encourage those interested to apply soon. Camp is August 7-14 in Corbett, as well as two sessions in Santa Cruz, CA. We are also looking for volunteers to help spread the word about camp to friends and family, schools, and progressive organizations. We have camp staff positions open as well. To apply for or learn more about camp, please visit our website at yeacamp.org, and contact us at info@yeacamp.org if you have questions or would like to volunteer or work at YEA.

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